BLC Denies Expanded Entertainment At Ocean City Bar

OCEAN CITY – Officials denied a request for expanded entertainment at a Wicomico Street Bar this week.

The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) on Wednesday agreed to increase the hours for background music at Toast on Wicomico Street but opted not to grant the variety of other requests made by the establishment. The bar was limited to background music last year because of concerns from neighbors and connections had hoped to offer more this year. The board felt otherwise.

“It’s too much, too broad,” BLC member Charles Nichols said.

Toast’s Michael Berardinelli told the board that after opening last year he was hoping the restaurant had proved itself capable of operating responsibly within Emerson Tower. The bar got approval to offer background music last August and he said he was hoping to expand on that this year. The request submitted to the board for Wednesday’s meeting sought permission for a musician to roam the deck, live entertainment inside, a music technician, longer hours for background music and off-sale beer and wine privileges. The latter would have allowed the bar to sell beer and wine to boaters in the area.

“The modifications we’re seeking are not intended to disturb our community,” he said.

Primarily, Berardinelli said he wanted to offer more entertainment for guests so they’d have a more enjoyable time at Toast.

“We’d like to have the ability to have some mild entertainment for our guests,” he said, adding that the condo units surrounding the restaurant were empty most of the year. “What I’m asking for is the opportunity to grow our business.”

Some patrons of the restaurant spoke in favor of its requests. Berlin resident Andrea Weber said that she liked the food there but found the “dead awkward silence” kept people from lingering long. She said most Ocean City eateries had entertainment.

“It’s the food that brings us there but it’s the surroundings that keep us there,” she said.

The restaurant’s chef said that because even the current background music was not allowed past 8 p.m., he’d seen patrons using their phones to play music while they were at Toast.

Bill Rank, a resident of Emerson Towers, said he felt the current allowance for background music until 8 p.m. was adequate and said he didn’t want to see entertainment expanded.

“We have to coexist together,” he said.

Rank said there were more than a dozen homeowners and the restaurant space within Emerson Towers. He said that if Berardinelli’s requests—which included a request to have outside background music from 7 a.m. until midnight—were granted, residents would have just seven hours a day with no music. He added that the background music at the restaurant was already disturbing. He recounted an incident in which a renter had called the police because it was keeping their child awake.

Berardinelli said he’d responded and addressed that issue when it occurred. He said no police report had been filed.

He added that Rank had never patronized the restaurant and noted that he’d purchased his condo knowing that it was located above a bar.

Rank said that Emerson Tower was primarily a residential condominium.

“Help us maintain the quality of life in Emerson Tower,” he said to the board.

He added that there were Ocean City restaurants, such as The Hobbit and Touch of Italy, that operated with no more than background music.

“It’s not like they’re hurting for business,” he said.

The BLC attorney noted that the board had received more than 10 emails of support for Toast’s request and one email of opposition. Nichols said the lengthy hearing hadn’t included the cooperation he typically liked to see among parties. While he wanted to deny the request entirely, BLC member Marty Pusey said she was willing to expand background music. The board agreed to allow indoor background music to be extended until 10 p.m.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.